Thoughtful Classroom Assignment Can Enhance Outcomes

New Research Shows Teachers’ Physical Proximity Boosts Collaboration with Colleagues

By Laura Jimenez - Rep: January 15, 2018

Innovative new schools across the country are experimenting with building designs to increase student learning and teacher collaboration. But the majority of instructors in the United States teach in a more traditional setting – the “egg crate” design, consisting of long hallways lined with self-contained classrooms. In a new article for Education Next, James Spillane of Northwestern University and Matthew Shirrell of George Washington University report that even within the limitations of traditional school building design, thoughtful classroom assignments can promote beneficial teacher interactions. Teachers are far more likely to speak with one another about their practice when they are assigned to nearby classrooms.

In each year from 2010 through 2013, Spillane and Shirrell surveyed all instructional staff from 14 elementary schools comprising one Midwestern suburban school district about their work-related interactions, school perceptions, and background information...

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Researcher Recommends Ways to Improve Remedial Education

By Laura Jimenez - Rep: January 15, 2018

In December, during a hearing before California lawmakers on the need to reform remedial education – the system that aims to ready underprepared students for college-level work – a student testified that because his test scores required him to take one year’s worth of remedial education, he would have to scramble to figure out how to pay another year’s rent, school fees, and transportation. While he completed his remedial coursework and went on to college-level work, he wanted a better system for his younger brother.

Remedial education held real promise at its origin. It served as an on-ramp to college for students who were underprepared in the subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics. In the present day, however, remedial education often acts as an exit ramp, derailing many students in need of additional academic support from ever enrolling in college courses or completing their undergraduate degree...

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California School Dashboard Launches, Offering Multiple Measures to Check School and District Performance

December 18, 2017

On December 7, the California Department of Education (CDE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) announced the launch of the fall 2017 California School Dashboard, a web site that provides valuable information on multiple topics regarding school and student performance in an easy-to-understand report card format.

The information, which includes test scores, graduation rates, and college and career readiness, is aimed at helping all students succeed. The launch follows a pilot version released in March.

The release of the Dashboard occurs at the same time California launches its new Statewide System of Support for Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and schools, which provides assistance for all districts, but has special targeted support for districts that face significant challenges in lifting the performance of struggling student groups...

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Students’ Early Test Scores Don’t Predict Academic Growth Over Time, Study Finds

By Carrie Spector - Rep: December 18, 2017

A new analysis of data from all public school districts in the United States indicates that poverty does not determine the effectiveness of a school.

For years, parents and policymakers have looked to test scores to gauge the effectiveness of school districts and teachers. New research from Stanford Graduate School of Education by Professor Sean Reardon provides a different measure: students’ academic progress over a period of years.

Reardon examined test scores for students in third through eighth grade at 11,000 school districts across the country. Third-grade test scores, he found – whether they were higher or lower than the national average – did not correlate to students’ academic growth through elementary and middle school. In fact, growth rates in many low-income districts outpaced those where students enjoyed greater access to learning opportunities in early childhood...

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Heated Political Rhetoric Spills Over into Classroom, Increasing Stress and Undermining Learning

By John McDonald - Rep: December 4, 2017

Amid the first months of a Trump administration characterized by highly charged and divisive political rhetoric, a new national survey of public high school teachers finds heightened levels of student stress and anxiety and concerns for their own well-being or that of their family members, according to a new study published by the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access. Teachers in the survey also report a rise in polarization and incivility in classrooms, as well as an increased reliance by students on unreliable and unsubstantiated information. Teachers also report hostile environments for racial and religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.

“Hate speech and acts of intimidation are not new to U.S. schools, but it’s disconcerting that numerous teachers are telling us that the level of animus they are seeing is ‘unprecedented’ in their careers,” says John Rogers, a professor of education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and the lead researcher for the study...

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High-Stakes Exams Can Put Female Students at a Disadvantage, Researcher Finds

By Carrie Spector - Rep: December 4, 2017

A new study suggests that women are more heavily influenced than men by test anxiety, and points to ways to help close the gender gap.

Research has long shown that women who enter college intending to pursue a career in science abandon that path more frequently than their male peers, with many citing poor grades and large gateway classes as reasons for their declining interest. To what extent do these women fall behind because of the way science is taught and tested?

A new study of students in introductory biology courses finds that women overall performed worse than men on high-stakes exams but better on other types of assessments, such as lab work and written assignments. The study also shows that the anxiety of taking an exam has a more significant impact on women’s grades than it does for men...

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SBE Approves Inclusive History/Social Science Textbooks

December 4, 2017

The State Board of Education voted during its meeting on November 8-9 to approve instructional materials for grades K-8 that teach California’s groundbreaking History/Social-Science Curriculum Framework.

“I am proud California continues to lead the nation by teaching history-social science that is inclusive and recognizes the diversity of our great state and nation,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “Students will benefit enormously.”

The instructional materials are intended to give students a broader, deeper, and more accurate understanding of history and the social sciences, provide them with current research, and equip them with the critical thinking and research skills to make up their own minds about controversial issues...

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CDE: Student Suspensions, Expulsions Decline for Fifth Consecutive Year

November 13, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on November 1 that the number of students suspended and expelled in California public schools has declined for the fifth year in a row, showing that efforts by educators to improve attendance by using more engaging instruction and effective discipline are making significant progress.

From the 2011–12 school year to 2016–17, suspensions declined by a remarkable 46 percent, meaning there were 327,857 fewer suspensions in 2016–17 than in 2011–12. (See Table 1).

Similarly, expulsions decreased by 42 percent, dropping from about 9,800 to 5,700, a difference of about 4,100 students. (See Table 3).

The figures come from data collected by the California Department of Education (CDE) and are the most detailed and comprehensive statistics in the nation...

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California Students Lose 840,656 Days of Instruction Due to Suspensions, According to UCLA Research Study

October 30, 2017

A research study released on October 23 shows that the overuse of suspensions in California schools resulted in an estimated 840,656 days of lost instruction during the 2014-2015 academic year, or approximately 13 days for every 100 students enrolled. The is the first California study to quantify days of missed instruction due to suspension, rather than suspension rates.

The report, “Lost Instruction: The Disparate Impact of the School Discipline Gap in California,” estimates instructional days lost for each school district in the state and for California as a whole. Data on the number of days lost for every school district in California is available here. The report was written by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, and Dr. Amir Whitaker, a researcher at the Center. Both Losen and Whitaker have experience as educators and civil rights lawyers...

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Commentary: End the High-Stakes Testing Sham

(Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was published by U.S. News & World Report on September 15.)


By Daniel Koretz, Opinion Contributor

Fall is here, and kids are back in school. If you are a parent, you know what this means: testing, testing and more testing. Not just end-of-the-year tests used for accountability, but tests all year long to "prepare" for them. And time spent taking tests is just the tip of the iceberg: In many schools, preparation for these tests eats up far more time than testing does. In fact, in some schools, test prep is the curriculum.

This has been the way American schools have been run for years. We’ve been promised that this boring and stressful regimen will improve schools, lead kids to learn more and close the gap between low-achieving and high-achieving students.

It hasn’t. This approach has been a failure. It has produced only limited improvements, and these are far outweighed by the damage it has done...

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